A ‘goddess’ awaits her moment in the spotlight

Supporters of the 700-pound, seven-foot-tall, $122,000 bronze Goddess of Commerce statue will publicly unveil the object on Weds., Aug. 31 at 4 p.m. near the intersections of South Sixth Avenue, St. Helens Avenue, and South Baker Street, in the so-called Triangle Business District and Theater District.

In 2008, Griselda “Babe” Lehrer partnered with the Tacoma Historical Society to lead a fund-raising effort to make a replica of sorts of the original statue, which once represented Tacoma’s economy, adorned the former Chamber of Commerce building downtown, and was destroyed nearly 70 years ago.

The new statue — shrouded this morning in anticipation of its grand unveiling — was created by artist Marilyn Mahoney. It aims to honor the city’s history and represent some of Tacoma’s economic and cultural signifiers. In one arm, the statue cradles a miniature model of the city’s skyline, including the Museum of Glass cone. The model freighter in her left hand signifies maritime commerce, crane earrings represent Tacoma’s identity as a major port, and salmon streaming down her back represent the fishing industry.

The statue was originally slated to be installed in Tollefson Plaza, but that idea was rejected. In March 2010, the City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected a request to place the statue atop the historic Carlton Building in downtown Tacoma. Finally, in October 2009, the Tacoma Arts Commission rejected a request by Lehrer for the City take ownership of the statue and locate it in Pierce Transit Plaza, which is on Broadway and near Theatre on the Square and Pantages Theater.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Home at last for Goddess of Commerce statue? (08/18/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2023779&more=0

Landmarks Preservation Commission rejects ‘Goddess of Commerce’ proposal — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1735356&more=0

By Todd Matthews

March 17, 2010

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has rejected a request to place a 700-pound, seven-foot-tall, $122,000 bronze statue atop the historic Carlton Building in downtown Tacoma.

The request came from long-time community organizer and fund-raiser Griselda “Babe” Lehrer and artist Marilyn Mahoney, who also submitted an application for a building permit Feb. 9 in order to gain permission to place the ‘Goddess of Commerce’ statue top a three- to five-foot-tall steel base on the northeast rooftop corner of the 1909 building, located at 1551 Broadway. Their request was made to the LPC because the building is located in the Union Depot/Warehouse Special Review District, which is listed on the local, state, and national historic registers.

In 2008, Lehrer partnered with the Tacoma Historical Society to lead a fund-raising effort to create the statue and place it in Tollefson Plaza downtown. The statue would honor the city’s history and represent some of Tacoma’s economic and cultural signifiers. In one arm, the statue cradles a miniature model of the city’s skyline, including the Museum of Glass cone. The model freighter in her left hand signifies maritime commerce, crane earrings represent Tacoma’s identity as a major port, and salmon streaming down her back represent the fishing industry.

– LPC REJECTION BASED ON THREE FACTORS –

The LPC rejected the request during its March 10 meeting. The commission cited three sections of the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for rehabilitation.

First, the standards state the historic character of a property will be retained and preserved, and the “removal of distinctive materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize a property” must be avoided. Placing the 10- to 12-foot-tall (with base) statue atop the building would “potentially and adversely [affect] the building’s character-defining massing and roof line,” according to the LPC.

Second, the standards state “changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or elements from other historic properties, [should] not be undertaken.” The original ‘Goddess of Commerce’ statue adorned the former Chamber of Commerce building, which was designed by architect Carl August Darmer, built in 1880, and located at South 12th Street and Pacific Avenue. The original statue stood above the building’s entrance. The building and the statue were destroyed in 1940.

Lehrer and Mahoney argued placing the re-created statue atop the Carlton Building made sense because the building was also designed by architect Darmer.

The LPC disagreed.

“The fact that Darmer designed the Carlton Building is not relevant to whether the site is appropriate, as the Chamber of Commerce Building and the Carlton Building are not architecturally related to one another,” LPC staff noted in its list of recommendations. “Darmer and firms associated with Darmer designed hundreds of buildings in Tacoma from the 1870s through the turn of the Twentieth Century. Moreover, it could be argued such rationale does not meet Secretary of the Interior [standards] as it may be a ‘[change] that create[s] a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or elements from other historic properties.’”

Finally, the commission was concerned the 12-foot statue located atop a 96-foot-tall building would conflict with the standards because it would not be “compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale, proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.”

– TACOMA ARTS COMMISSION ALSO REJECTS STATUE –

It’s not the first time Lehrer and Mahoney have been rejected by a city commission.

According to an Oct. 15 memo from Ryan Petty, director of the City’s community and economic development department, to City Manager Eric Anderson, and minutes from the Tacoma Arts Commission’s Sept. 14 meeting, Mahoney requested the City take ownership of the bronze statue and site it in Pierce Transit Plaza, which is on Broadway and near Theatre on the Square and Pantages Theater.

The commission, however, listed nearly two-dozen reasons for rejecting that plan during its Oct. 12 meeting.

According to the memo, the commission’s major concerns included:

– Placing the statue in Pierce Transit Plaza was not appropriate because it was not designed for the area and would be out of context. Also, five other public art pieces would be within view of the proposed location, and alternate uses, such as the Broadway Farmer’s Market, would be negatively impacted;

– The artwork, though well-intentioned, lacks artistic merit or significant aesthetic quality. According to the commission, the artist has no reputation, exhibition record or market, and the appraisal of the piece came in over $20,000 less than the cost to produce the piece;

– A lack of support from surrounding community members, such as the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA) and the Farmer’s Market. According to the commission, both organizations submitted letters of concern of the statue’s proposed siting;

– Commissioners were uncomfortable adding the statue to the City’s art collection because it included donor names. The commission was unclear as to what the obligation of the City would be to the donors and to how the donor relationship worked between the fund-raisers and those contributing money.

– Former Tacoma City Councilmember Julie Anderson, who served on the commission as a council liaison at the time, was concerned about cultural sensitivity and the need for a thorough cultural review by the Puyallup Tribe. In promotional literature, the statue has been described as having the face of a Native American woman. According to the Oct. 15 memo, early concerns from Puyallup tribal members regarding the lack of cultural sensitivity have been raised;

– The long-term cost to the City for stewardship and maintenance of the statue, and potential siting and re-siting, is unclear.

– A FRUSTRATING PROCESS –

During the LPC’s March 10 meeting, Lehrer said the idea to place it atop the Carlton Building seemed appropriate.

“I thought it was a terrific idea,” she said. “Darmer was the same architect who did both buildings. A [original] statue was on top of one of the buildings. I had the idea to put [the new statue] on the other one.” She said she contacted the building’s owner, Fred Roberson, and received permission for the plan. Roberson attended the commission meeting and expressed his support.

Lehrer also said she was frustrated over trying to find a permanent home for the statue.

“As an outsider, Tacoma is not hungry for art,” she said. “Puyallup is. You go to Puyallup and they have so many opportunities there for artists to demonstrate what they are capable of doing. Art is making the downtown area look fabulous. But here, there are roadblocks. Believe me. Tacoma, really and truly, is not gang busters on having any art. They put up too many obstacles and it’s very discouraging for people who want to contribute something to the city.”

Mahoney said that at one point, City Hall was on board with placing the statue in front of the Carlton Building at street-level near Tollefson Plaza. “It was almost 90 per cent approved, according to the public works director at the time,” said Mahoney. “Then [the City] had a Danish architect come [to town] and a committee was formed to look at Tollefson Plaza. The outcome was a moratorium on Tollefson Plaza for three years.”

– IT’S THE BUILDING, NOT THE ARTWORK –

Commissioner Pamela Sundell told Lehrer and Mahoney she was sympathetic to the goal of placing art in public places. “But our job is the protection of the historic nature of the building and the district,” she said. “That’s what we have to keep in the forefront.”

She was concerned the statue conflicted with the style of the surrounding historic buildings, as well as the Carlton Building itself. “When you have a sculpture on top of a building, usually it’s . . . in a setting and belongs there,” she said. “This, and I don’t want to sound crass, but it’s sort of plunked on [the roof]. The building has a very linear roof. There’s no setting for the sculpture. I have trouble with that as an historic facade. This shape and style of building does not lend itself for this type of installation.”

Commissioner Fred King said placing the statue on top of the building would mean people wouldn’t be able to see the sculpture’s detail. “It seems to me that this is a sculpture for people to be walking around,” he said. “I just can’t believe it’s in the best interest to place it on the roof.”

During the March 10 meeting, City staff originally recommended deferring the application pending feedback from Tacoma’s Arts Commission. Instead, the commission elected to vote up or down on the application.

“Whether or not we have to go through another exercise, that’s your decision to make,” said Lehrer shortly before the commission took a vote to reject the plan. “I believe in it thoroughly enough to give my time and energy.”

For additional photos and to comment on this article, visit the Index’s blog at http://i.feedtacoma.com/TDI-Reporters-Notebook/tacomas-homeless-goddess-commerce/ .

- – - – - – - – - -

Next stop for ‘Goddess of Commerce’ statue: Atop Carlton Center Building?

March 5, 2010

By Todd Matthews

Supporters of a plan to re-create the so-called ‘Goddess of Commerce’ — a statue that once represented Tacoma’s economy, adorned the former Chamber of Commerce building downtown, and was destroyed nearly 70 years ago — are now setting their sites on placing the statue atop the Carlton Center Building, located at 1551 Broadway, in downtown Tacoma. The topic is slated to be discussed March 10 during Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) meeting. According to a Feb. 24 letter from artist Marilyn Mahoney to the LPC, a building permit was submitted to City Hall on Feb. 9 in order to gain permission to place the 700-pound, seven-foot tall, $122,000 bronze Goddess of Commerce statue on the northeast rooftop corner of the building.

It is the latest chapter in a two-year-long saga of fund-raising and trying to find a site for the artwork.

In 2008, Griselda “Babe” Lehrer, a long-time Tacoma community organizer, partnered with the Tacoma Historical Society (THS) to lead a fund-raising effort to create the statue and place it in Tollefson Plaza downtown. According to Lehrer and THS, the original ‘Goddess of Commerce’ statue stood on the rooftop of the former Chamber of Commerce building, which was located at South 12th Street and Pacific Avenue. The building was constructed in 1880 and torn down — along with the original 10-foot statue — in 1940.

According to THS’s Web site, Mahoney created a model of the new Goddess of Commerce. In one arm, she cradles a miniature model of the city’s skyline, including the Museum of Glass cone. The model freighter in her left hand signifies maritime commerce, crane earrings represent Tacoma’s identity as a major port, and salmon streaming down her back represent the fishing industry.

In 2009, Mahoney requested the City take ownership of the statue and site it in Pierce Transit Plaza, which is on Broadway and near Theatre on the Square and Pantages Theater, according to an Oct. 15 memo from Ryan Petty, director of the City’s community and economic development department, to City Manager Eric Anderson, and minutes from the Tacoma Arts Commission’s Sept. 14 meeting. The Arts Commission, however, rejected that plan during its Oct. 12 meeting. It listed nearly two-dozen reasons based on its gift and accession policies. According to the memo, the commission’s major concerns included:

– Placing the statue in Pierce Transit Plaza was not appropriate because it was not designed for the area and would be out of context. Also, five other public art pieces would be within view of the proposed location, and alternate uses, such as the Broadway Farmer’s Market, would be negatively impacted;

– The artwork, though well-intentioned, lacks artistic merit or significant aesthetic quality. According to the commission, the artist has no reputation, exhibition record or market, and the appraisal of the piece came in over $20,000 less than the cost to produce the piece;

– A lack of support from surrounding community members, such as the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA) and the Farmer’s Market. According to the commission, both organizations submitted letters of concern of the statue’s proposed siting;

– Commissioners were uncomfortable adding the statue to the City’s art collection because it included donor names. The commission was unclear as to what the obligation of the City would be to the donors and to how the donor relationship worked between the fund-raisers and those contributing money.

– Then-Tacoma City Councilmember Julie Anderson, who served on the commission as a council liaison, was concerned about cultural sensitivity and the need for a thorough cultural review by the Puyallup Tribe. In promotional literature, the statue has been described as having the face of a Native American woman. According to the Oct. 15 memo, early concerns from Puyallup tribal members regarding the lack of cultural sensitivity have been raised;

– The long-term cost to the City for stewardship and maintenance of the statue, and potential siting and re-siting, is unclear.

The LPC will discuss the latest plan for the Goddess of Commerce on Weds., March 10, at 5:00 p.m. in Tacoma Municipal Building North, 728 St. Helens. For more information, visit http://tacomaculture.org/historic/resources.asp .

- – - – - – - – - – - – - -

‘Goddess of Commerce’ project remains in limbo

Oct. 28, 2009

By Todd Matthews

Supporters of a plan to re-create the so-called ‘Goddess of Commerce’ — a statue that once represented Tacoma’s economy, adorned the former Chamber of Commerce building downtown, and was destroyed nearly 70 years ago — are having a difficult time finding a site for the bronze artwork.

According to an Oct. 15 memo from Ryan Petty, director of the City’s community and economic development department, to City Manager Eric Anderson, and minutes from the Tacoma Arts Commission’s Sept. 14 meeting, the statue’s artist, Marilyn Mahoney, requested the City take ownership of the bronze statue and site it in Pierce Transit Plaza, which is on Broadway and near Theatre on the Square and Pantages Theater.

The commission, however, rejected that plan during its Oct. 12 meeting. It listed nearly two-dozen reasons based on its gift and accession policies. According to the memo, the commission’s major concerns include:

– Placing the statue in Pierce Transit Plaza was not appropriate because it was not designed for the area and would be out of context. Also, five other public art pieces would be within view of the proposed location, and alternate uses, such as the Broadway Farmer’s Market, would be negatively impacted;

– The artwork, though well-intentioned, lacks artistic merit or significant aesthetic quality. According to the commission, the artist has no reputation, exhibition record or market, and the appraisal of the piece came in over $20,000 less than the cost to produce the piece;

– A lack of support from surrounding community members, such as the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA) and the Farmer’s Market. According to the commission, both organizations submitted letters of concern of the statue’s proposed siting;

– Commissioners were uncomfortable adding the statue to the City’s art collection because it included donor names. The commission was unclear as to what the obligation of the City would be to the donors and to how the donor relationship worked between the fund-raisers and those contributing money.

– Tacoma City Councilmember Julie Anderson, who serves on the commission as a council liaison, was concerned about cultural sensitivity and the need for a thorough cultural review by the Puyallup Tribe. In promotional literature, the statue has been described as having the face of a Native American woman. According to the Oct. 15 memo, early concerns from Puyallup tribal members regarding the lack of cultural sensitivity have been raised;

– The long-term cost to the City for stewardship and maintenance of the statue, and potential siting and re-siting, is unclear.

Last year, Griselda “Babe” Lehrer, a long-time Tacoma community organizer, partnered with the Tacoma Historical Society (THS) to lead a fund-raising effort to create the statue and place it in Tollefson Plaza downtown. According to Lehrer, the 7-foot, $122,000 statue would honor the city’s history and represent some of the Tacoma’s economic and cultural signifiers.

According to Lehrer and THS, the original ‘Goddess of Commerce’ statue stood on the rooftop of the former Chamber of Commerce building, which was located at South 12th Street and Pacific Avenue. The building was constructed in 1880 and torn down — along with the original 10-foot statue — in 1940.

According to THS’s Web site, Mahoney created a model of the new Goddess of Commerce. In one arm, she cradles a miniature model of the city’s skyline, including the Museum of Glass cone. The model freighter in her left hand signifies maritime commerce, crane earrings represent Tacoma’s identity as a major port, and salmon streaming down her back represent the fishing industry.

To read the Oct. 15 memo, click here — http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/cityclerk/Files/CityCouncil/CMOWeeklyReport/2009/WklyReport20091022.pdf

To read the Sept. 12 Tacoma Arts Commission meeting minutes, click here — http://tacomaculture.org/arts/resource/TA_minutes_091409.pdf

For more information about the Goddess of Commerce fund-raising effort, click here — http://tacomahistory.org/SpecialProjects/Goddess_of_Commerce.html

- – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Movement grows to place goddess of commerce statue near Tollefson Plaza

March 7, 2008

By Todd Matthews

A long-time Tacoma community organizer is leading an effort to fund a statue in Tollefson Plaza downtown that would honor a piece of the city’s history destroyed nearly 70 years ago, and represent some of the city’s economic and cultural signifiers.

Griselda “Babe” Lehrer, former owner of Lyon’s Apparel, and a volunteer at Tacoma Public Schools, the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, and the Museum of Glass, has partnered with the Tacoma Historical Society for the creation of a bronze ‘goddess of commerce’ statue.

Lehrer shared the plan Thursday morning with members of the Downtown Merchants Group.

According to Lehrer, the original ‘goddess of commerce’ statue once stood on the rooftop of the former Chamber of Commerce building, which was located at South 12th Street and Pacific Avenue. The building was constructed in 1880 and torn down in 1940. “When the building came down, the goddess came down,” said Lehrer. The original 10-foot statue was destoryed, melted down for its copper.

A new statue, which would measure seven-feet-four-inches tall, has been designed by artist Marilyn Mahoney (a photograph of the statue design is online at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tacoma-urbanist/2310312663/sizes/o/in/photostream/ ). In one arm, the goddess is cradling a miniature model of the city’s skyline, including the Museum of Glass cone. In another arm, she is holding a container ship, meant to represent trade activity at the Port of Tacoma. Salmon run down the back of the statue, which stands on a base shaped like Mt. Rainier.

The new statue will cost $122,000. So far, three people have purchased bronze fish that will be engraved with their names and located at the base of the statue for $5,000 each.

If the statue is built and placed in the plaza, the Tacoma Historical Society would provide maintenance of the artwork until it is incorporated into the City of Tacoma’s art collection.

During Thursday’s meeting, Lehrer was confident the project would be funded. “It will be done and dedicated this year,” she said.

Downtown merchant Steph Farber, owner of Le Roy Jewelers, agreed. “If she gets behind a project, it happens,” said Farber.

If you are interested in learning more about the effort or donating to the fund-raiser contact the Tacoma Historical Society at (253) 472-3738.